Alex Massie Alex Massie

Bush’s Limited Idea of Compassionate Conservatism

George W Bush has earned praise for the manner in which he has left office: dignified and quiet. Fair enough. And at least unlike his predecessor he didn’t cry tears of self-pity. Nor, by and large, did Bush disgrace the Presidency by handing out a bundle of pardons to friends and cronies. With one exception that is. Throwing one last bone to the GOP base, Bush commuted the sentences of Jose Alonso Compean and Ignacio Ramos, a pair of Border Patrol officers convicted of shooting an unarmed Mexican (who was subsequently proved to be a drug smuggler* – though the agents did not know that at the time) and then covering-up the shooting to make it seem as though their victim had been resisting arrest when he had, in fact, been running away and back towards Mexico.

The case became a cause celebre for conservative talk radio and a gaggle of Republican congressmen, for whom the Compean and Ramos were “heroes”. They were the victims of an over-zealous prosecution and, once they’d been sentenced to 12 and 11 years in gaol respectively, the victims of mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines. As a result of Bush’s commutation, they will spend just three years in gaol.

Well, I disapprove of mandatory minimum sentences too. But when even National Review’s Andy McCarthy thinks these agents got what they deserved then it’s tough to hold the heroes-doing-their-jobs line. Here’s McCarthy:

Once Aldrete-Davila was down from Ramos’s shot to the backside, they decided, for a second time, not to grab him so he could face justice for his crimes. As they well knew, an arrest at that point — after 15 shots at a fleeing, unarmed man who had tried to surrender — would have shone a spotlight on their performance.

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